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Tips for the Courtroom

Other Court Basics

This article tells you general information on what to do and not to do in a courtroom.

Learn how to prepare for court, what to expect, what to do, and not to do in a courtroom.

How can I be prepared?

  • Keep good records and prepare the documents you need to bring to court. 

  • Arrive at the courthouse 30 minutes early to find parking, go through security, and find your courtroom. 

  • Dress appropriately as you would for a job interview. No shorts, tank tops, flip-flops, or hats. 

  • Leave any weapons as they cannot be brought into the courthouse. 

  • Your personal items will be inspected, so have them neatly organized ahead of time and only bring what you need. 

  • Allow several hours of waiting time as you may not be the first one called to see the judge. 

What if I have to bring my child?

Most courtrooms do not allow minor children, except under limited circumstances. 

What do I do once I get into the courtroom?

  • When the courtroom opens go in and tell the clerk or officer you are present. 

  • Be calm, respectful, and polite to everyone. 

  • Do not interrupt. 

  • Turn your cellphone off. If it goes off, the bailiff may take it and you may have to return to court at a later time to recover it. 

  • Do not chew gum or bring food or drinks into the courtroom. 

  •  Stand up when the judge enters or exits the courtroom. Stand up when you talk to the judge unless you are in the witness stand. 

  • The judge may not call your case right away. Wait patiently. If you must leave the courtroom, tell the clerk where you are going. 

  • If friends or relatives come to court with you, ask them to follow these rules, too. 

  • Do not argue with the judge even if you are frustrated.  

What if I don’t speak English?

If you don’t speak English or feel more comfortable in your native language inform the clerk or court before your court date that you need a translator. Check out the article Am I Entitled to a Language Interpreter. When you arrive at the courthouse for your hearing and check in, make sure to inform the clerk or officer and the judge as soon as your case is called that you need a translator. 

What do I do when the Judge calls my case?

  • Stand up when the judge calls your case. If you have an attorney representing you, let them speak for you. If you do not have an attorney, introduce yourself and announce you are present and ready to proceed. If you are not ready to proceed let the judge know and tell them why.  

  • Address the judge as “Your honor” or “judge (name)” and continue to stand as you speak to them. 

  • The judge will listen to what you say. The judge may call you up to the stand to continue with your case. Follow the judge’s direction on what to do for the hearing.  

What do I do if the Judge asks me questions?

  •  If the judge asks you questions, wait until they finish speaking before you speak and treat them with the utmost respect. 

  • Tell the truth and don’t exaggerate.  

  • Give complete answers. 

  • Say “yes” or “no” aloud. It is not enough to nod or shake your head. 

  • If you do not understand a question, say, “I don’t understand.” If you do not know an answer, say, “I don’t know.” 

  • Keep your answers brief and concise.  

What do I do if I have to give testimony?

  • The judge will have you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth.   

  • If you have a divorce case, you will need to give testimony. Some judges will ask you questions. Other judges will want you to read a “script” of testimony.  

  • Make sure everything in the script is true for you. 

  • Don’t guess. "I don't know" or "I don't remember" are acceptable answers. 

  • Take your time in answering questions and speak loudly enough for everyone to hear. 

Representing Yourself in Court

Watch this video to help you prepare for court. 

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